NFL owners stand with players in Trump kneeling rebuke

When New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft came out publicly against President Trump over the ongoing spat over NFL players kneeling during the “Star-Spangled Banner” ahead of games, the man who previously called the president a “very good friend” was not alone, as multiple owners are beginning to speak out on the issue.

“There is no greater unifier in this country than sports, and unfortunately, nothing more divisive than politics,” Kraft said in a statement tweeted by the Patriots.

The champion team’s CEO came out against Trump after the president made comments during a rally in Huntsville, Alabama on Friday, saying, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of the NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say ‘Get that son of a b—- off the field right now?'”

“You know, some owner … is going to say, ‘That guy who disrespects our flag, he’s fired,'” the president said to thunderous applause and cheers.

Kraft made it clear on Sunday he disagrees with the 45th president. Rather, he supports players’ rights “to peacefully [effect] social change.”

“I think our political leaders could learn a lot from the lessons of teamwork and the importance of working together toward a common goal,” the statement said. “Our players are intelligent, thoughtful, and care deeply about our community, and I support their right to peacefully affect social change and raise awareness in a manner that they feel is impactful.”

The billionaires’ beef comes only months after the Patriots made a formal visit to the White House in April, during which Kraft called Trump a “very good friend” and paralleled his presidential run with the team’s historic comeback win in this year’s Super Bowl over the Atlanta Falcons. Trump, he said, “preserved” over 16 career politicians, and faced incredible odds.

Kraft’s comments came shortly after Trump on Sunday morning had turned his attention to NFL fans in his feud with the league over players who kneel in protest during the national anthem, saying many people should “stay away” from the games “because they love our country.”

The president, who already disinvited NBA superstar Stephen Curry and the champion Golden State Warriors team from being feted at the White House, also suggested on Twitter that if NFL fans refuse to go to games because of these protests, “you will see change fast.”

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